Friday, August 31, 2018

August 31, 2018

MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey

Amending What I Wrote about John Hood - He Defends Silent Sam and Wants It Put Back Up


As a young boy I was taught that when someone makes amends or comes round to your arguments, your point of view (after you have criticized him), you should acknowledge that in a gentlemanly and honorable fashion, that you should welcome gracefully that change of heart or that apparent shift in opinion.

Such is the case for me this morning. 

Back on Sunday, August 19, and then on Thursday, August 23, 2018, I authored two MY CORNER columns critical of the stance of North Carolina conservative and president of the John Locke Foundation, John Hood, expressed in a piece that he wrote about Confederate veterans' memorials. My second column was picked up by The Abbeville Institute and spread far and wide (and several friends spread it likewise). As usual, my criticisms pulled few punches.

But this morning I happened across another piece by John Hood, written after the two riots by revolutionaries on the Chapel Hill campus, and the resultant toppling of the Silent Sam monument to Carolina students who went off and fought and died in Confederate ranks over 150 years ago.

And I was taken aback--John Hood had written a column defending Silent Sam and demanding that it be put back in its rightful place of prominence. 

And so this morning, I must in good conscience amend what I wrote about him and his position on August 19 and 23. It is the right and honorable thing to do. 

First, here are links to my two earlier MY CORNER columns (and the Abbeville publications); then I follow with John Hood's essay, which I encourage you to read and distribute:

August 19, 2018:

August 23:

By NC SPIN on Aug 30, 2018 04:14 pm

by John Hood, Syndicated columnist and NC SPIN panelist, August 29, 2018.

Politicians tell people what they want to hear. Leaders tell people what they need to hear, even if they don’t want to listen.

I don’t envy the challenge faced by Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials who favor removing the “Silent Sam” memorial and other Confederate monuments from the public square to less-traveled locations such as cemeteries, battlefields, museums, or storage. They have some reasonable arguments for their position.

But this is no longer about the proper remembrance and interpretation of the Civil War, the historical context of monument placement during the early 20th century, or what the symbols mean to North Carolinians today. Those are matters for public debate, for legislative deliberation, for editorials and speeches intended to change either the minds or the identities of the relevant public officials. Let’s collectively label such options Plan A.

For those who contend that Silent Sam and similar objects on campuses form a hostile education environment for students and thus contravene federal law, the proper place to present that case is a court of law. That’s Plan B.

For those who feel strongly enough to take direct action, there is also Plan C: civil disobedience. You publicly break a law you believe to be unjust, prepared to accept the consequences and by doing so advance your cause. Civil disobedience affirms rather than weakens the rule of law, as long as your acts do not threaten the lives, liberty, or property of others. In this case, protesters could have, say, formed a human wall around Silent Sam and refused to move without being arrested.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously put it, “any man who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law is at that moment expressing the very highest respect for law.”

These are the only alternatives available to individuals with strong opinions who must live in a free society with other individuals who may have strongly divergent opinions. There is no Plan D.

The Silent Sam protesters contend that reasoned discourse was taking too long, that they had not yet achieved their objective and were thus justified in assembling as a mob, erecting barriers, throwing smoke bombs, and yanking the statue down. But impatience is not a vote-multiplier. Outrage is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Many North Carolinians are impatient or outraged about other causes. Anti-abortion activists, for example, aren’t just upset about alleged hate speech. They believe unborn children are being killed every day, and that some perpetrators are indirectly subsidized by tax dollars in the form of grants to clinics for “family planning” or “women’s health.” Should pro-life activists take the law into their own hands by obstructing, defacing, or destroying abortion clinics? Should North Carolinians with a strong dislike for other historical figures depicted in statues, plaques, nameplates, and artworks on public property be free to break or remove them?

After Silent Sam was toppled, Gov. Cooper said the right thing, that “violent destruction of public property has no place in our communities.” University of North Carolina leaders condemned “mob rule” and correctly observed that the perpetrators had threatened public safety — not being masonry contractors or demolition experts, the perpetrators lacked not just the authority but the expertise to do safely what they did. They recklessly endangered themselves and others.

The hard part comes next, however. To allow the mob to achieve its objective would reward criminality, weaken the rule of law, and set a dangerous precedent. What might the next mob do?

Silent Sam must be placed back on its pedestal and protected from future assault, perhaps with a plexiglass case, as Mecklenburg County did three years ago after vandals repeatedly defaced a Confederate monument. Both the criminals and the authorities who failed to intervene must be held responsible. While most North Carolinians will agree with these decisions, some won’t. They’ll be furious. Countering their fury effectively will require leadership, not political calculation. It will be difficult. That’s the job.

John Hood (@JohnHoodNC) is chairman of the John Locke Foundation and appears on “NC SPIN,” broadcast statewide Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 12:30 p.m. on UNC-TV.

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